If You Leave
, March 21st, 2013 05:48
Sold-out gigs, extensive radio play, escalating hype; for an act still very much in its infancy, London-based Daughter find themselves riding a frothing crest of attention, and not just on UK shores – the fledgling trio (singer Elena Tonra, guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella) are even tentatively breaking the US, having graced The Late Show With David Letterman at the tail-end of last year. It made for a mesmerising performance that in years to come might well end up as a key defining moment in the life of Daughter.
This began in 2010 as an outlet for Tonra's musings (after she and Haefeli met at music college), and following 2011's brace of accomplished, independently-released EPs (His Young Heart and the bewitching The Wild Youth), Daughter became the latest addition to 4AD's towering roster last year, lining up alongside relative newbies Purity Ring and Grimes, and more established acts such as The National, Scott Walker and Bon Iver.
But if they're overawed by the current 4AD stable, or the label's incredible legacy, you certainly wouldn't know it. In a remarkably short space of time, they've taken stylistic strides forward; elegiac 4AD singles 'Smother' and 'Still' represent a blossoming confidence, and, juxtaposed against the conventional folky leanings of their earlier recordings, If You Leave is a significant progression; over just a few months, Daughter already feel like an entirely different and important proposition.
Produced by Haefeli – with additional production from Rodhaidh McDonald (The XX) – If You Leave is a startlingly accomplished statement of intent. Much like The XX, there are intricate dynamics at play: Tonra's fractured and fragile voice, delivering powerful words with a smoke-tinged whisper, fuses beguilingly with Haefeli's atmospheric guitar picks and Aguilella's percussive jolts.
Themed around love and loss, the melancholy outpouring of Tonra's innermost thoughts and internal demons could, in different hands, feel a little contrived, but not here. Despite its inherently dark themes, If You Leave displays a maturity beyond its years, its tumbling gamut of doubt, insecurity, fear, anger and loneliness never less than thrilling.
Embittered and hardened beyond her years, Tonra's anguished vocal twists and turns make for an exhilarating, compelling listen. From the woozy opening bars of 'Winter' ("Drifting apart like two sheets of ice") the tone is set; from there, the impetus of this graceful, elegant record just builds and builds. The trio has spoken of wanting to create a more expansive, cinematic sound, and If You Leave oozes with requisite depth, colour and detail.
It's exquisitely constructed: on 'Youth', Tonra delivers the lyrics with a delicious sense of urgency, veering between elation ("We are the reckless/The wild youth chasing our futures"), and jaundiced heartbreak ("If you're in love, then you are the lucky one/'Cause most of us are bitter over someone") in the space of just four precious minutes. Even the relentless, upbeat thrum of 'Human' is gilded by her wonderfully brittle voice, seemingly escaping her self-inflicted cocoon (“Break me out of this shell-like case I'm in/Underneath this skin there's a human”).
Soaring and swooping in all the right places, there's no denying the gorgeous ethereal shimmer and dizzying demonstrative pull of these songs. By the end of it all, Tonra has gone through the emotional wringer, purged her soul and exorcised her demons, resolutely pinging our heartstrings in the process.